Walking isn’t the only way to see Santa Barbara; it’s simply the best way. In an effort to connect proud residents and the millions of visitors who come to Santa Barbara with the stunningly beautiful city, Cheri Rae and I collected our favorite walks in a new pocket guide: “Walk Santa Barbara: Best Walks In and Around the City.”

Santa Barbara is as pedestrian-friendly (or more) as most small- to medium-sized European cities, and lacks only international signage and imaginative civic promotion to become a top walking (and hiking) destination for travelers.

Walk Santa Barbara and admire the magnificent natural setting and beautiful architecture, fill your lungs with the tangy salt air, feel the sunshine on your shoulders. Wind through the paseos, read the unique commemorative tiles that mark historical events, stop at a sidewalk cafe for lunch or a latte.

"Walk Santa Barbara: Best Walks in and Around the City" by John McKinney and Cheri Rae
“Walk Santa Barbara: Best Walks in and Around the City” by John McKinney and Cheri Rae

One walk is all most visitors need to realize what Santa Barbara is not: a distant suburb of L.A.; a place where everyone is rich; a town once demographically scorned as “the home of the newly-wed and nearly dead.” One walk is all visitors need to see the town for what it is: a modern city proud of its history; a small town offering big-city services; a seaside resort that’s welcomed visitors for more than 150 years.

Walking is by no means the only way to see Santa Barbara. Rent a car, as thousands do, use that that terrible tourist map you downloaded from some enormous travel site and try to navigate the town’s complexities of one-way streets and a main street that leads both north-south and east-west. (We Santa Barbarans are always happy to give directions, explain where you missed the turn for the Mission, and try to talk you out of eating at certain tourist traps.)

Put on your walking shoes and have fun exploring classic neighborhoods and ‘hoods a little rough around the edges from Mission Santa Barbara to the Funk Zone. Visit a few frankly tourist-y destinations that simply should not be missed as well as unusual sights not on any tourist map or itinerary.

Walking Santa Barbara is a chance for visitors to get an intimate look, and for busy
natives a chance to slow down and smell the roses. Choose a short walk, a long one or something in between.

In Santa Barbara, the Spanish named the destinations and suggested a name for the journey as well: paseo. A paseo can be loosely translated as a leisurely walk, an un-businesslike excursion, a pleasurable picnic. The word suggests the spirit we wish to convey in “Walk Santa Barbara” and has no English counterpart.

I wish you great walks, happy trails and many pleasant paseos.
Walk on.
—John McKinney